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Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates – Do You Know the Difference?

Posted Nov 24 2009 10:00pm

Many people on diets say that if they could just lower their carb intake, they might be able to lose some weight. While this may be true, did you know there are both good and bad carbohydrates? The good carbohydrates are called complex carbs and the bad carbohydrates are called simple carbs. Recognizing the difference and increasing your good carb intake might make the difference with that needle on the scale.

Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates – Do You Know the Difference?

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbs actually are rather simple. Basically, they all boil down to sugar – simple sugars. These sugars quickly are transformed into glucose in the body which can both provide “fuel” for energy as well as become stored as fat. While there are some simple sugars found naturally, most are found in processed and refined food choices such as candy, sugary drinks like sodas and kool-aid and even white breads and pastas.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs are definitely more complex as it takes the body a lot longer to process them, which is a good thing. Complex carbs are known as the good carbs because with them comes plenty of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables all contain complex carbohydrates. There are many benefits that come with this healthier carb version including:

1. Fiber – Most foods with complex carbohydrates have plenty of fiber which is a great regulator for your digestive tract. In addition, fiber fills you up faster which mean you eat less. And of course, when you eat less, you gain less weight. Women typically need 25 grams of fiber daily while men need around 40 grams.

2. Weight management – Most foods that have plenty of complex carbohydrates will have fewer calories. Consider this – it takes more time to eat a 100 calorie apple than it does to drink 100 calories in a soda. While both are 100 calories, the apple is nutritious, full of fiber and will fill you up long after the soda leaves your body.

When you are faced with losing weight, keep a food diary for a few weeks. You will be surprised at how many simple carbohydrates you actually consume. Start replacing those simple (bad) carbohydrates for complex ones. Drink water, milk or even unsweetened tea instead of sugary juice or soda options. Pick whole grain breads and pastas over white options. Bypass candy bars for a mid-afternoon snack and incorporate fruits, nuts or even crackers and cheese.

Be Wary of Food Labels

With the whole health kick going on, food manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. You will now see more and more food labels that tout “organic ingredients, all-natural or made with whole grains.” The problem is, a food product can have organic ingredients but if those ingredients include sugar or white flour, you are not getting complex carbohydrates, no matter how natural the ingredients are. As far as whole grains are concerned, if the food label mentions “enriched,” put it back. You want the ingredient list on the food label to start with “whole grains.”

Complex carbohydrates should have at least three grams of fiber per serving or the food product is not the best choice for you. Check your food labels and choose those cereals, pastas, rice and breads that offer at least three grams or more of fiber per serving as these will fill you up with fewer calories.

You cannot go wrong when choosing vegetables and fruits because these are going to be your best go-to foods when you need to fill your diet with complex carbohydrates. At least five servings of fruits and vegetables are needed per day in your diet. Adding whole grains instead of refined white sugar and white flour products will help you create a solid foundation for a healthy diet.

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